DIET. That be-all and end-all four letter word that sets off alarm bells for most. Think about what happens… you start one of these ‘diets’, stick to it for a day or two and then find yourself face-first in a big packet of oreos with feelings of guilt and disappointment. This is your first problem, we beings have a hard time dealing with restriction. We simply don’t like it. And for most of us starting a new highly restrictive eating plan or strict ‘diet’ stirs up unsettling feelings. It’s unrealistic and it’s not a sustainable way to see your weight loss goal through!
What’s going on in our head? The way we perceive diets is what we’ve been told to believe, or created ourselves. We’ve become socially programmed to desire ‘skinniness’, reinforced by social media. It’s like a social currency these days and with that, comes a lot of pressure around dieting. Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to improve on areas of ourselves, in fact it’s great. However if you’re putting too much pressure on yourself you’re likely to sabotage your weight loss progress. Time to look at it differently!
Swap ‘restrictive diet’ to ‘positive lifestyle change’ And as cliched as it may sound, it works because it doesn’t freak us out. It’s realistic. I can hear a lot less heels digging into the ground as I say this. It’s all about shifting our mindset to healthy behaviours in the form a long-term lifestyle change. You can still enjoy your favourite treats every now and then, so you actually see this thing through. Now that we’ve established that the first step to real weight loss results is moving away from the black and white ‘diet’ mindset, what is holding you back from achieving your weight loss and body transformation results? Here are the 3 reasons why your ‘diet’ isn’t working:
- You try to be healthy, but are getting it oh so wrong.
You consider yourself a bit of a health advocate and power to you - but the foods you think are healthy aren’t actually doing your waistline any favours. If your go-to is low-fat yoghurts, low-fat dressings and diet desserts you are setting yourself up for ravenous cravings, low energy levels and some seriously slowed weight loss results. These typical ‘diet’ foods aren’t very nutritionally dense and are typically packed with sugar to replace the loss of fat and therefore taste. This goes for the new health fads like superfood juices, energy or protein balls, protein bars, and so called ‘clean treats’ - sure they’re made from healthier ingredients than your typical refined sugar varieties or sodas but they are still often loaded with natural sugar, and if you consume more than you expend you’ll find it frustratingly hard to shift stubborn fat. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave. Same goes for artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin. While many diet products contain artificial sweeteners as a low- or no-calorie option, these artificial sweeteners can mess with our bodily responses. You eat a low- or -no calorie diet product, it tastes sweet but the calories don’t follow which can leave you craving and seeking out more food to satisfy you.
And don’t be fooled by commercially bought juices. While green juices can be a powerhouse of nutrition, the commercially bought varieties are often stripped of their precious nutrients and blood sugar stabling fibre during manufacturing. Uh, what’s the point of that right? I find clients typically derail a lot of their progress by overdoing it on these so called healthy alternatives. Be sure to aim for whole ‘real’ foods over diet products - always, home-made juices are best and include a greater proportion of vegetables than fruit (a 4:1 ratio is a good aim). If your primary goal is weight loss with an emphasis on fat loss and a leaner body composition enjoy ‘clean’ treats like energy balls and bars in moderation.
- Your hormones are a little out of whack.
You seem to be doing everything right but that stubborn belly fat just doesn’t want to shift. This can be a sign that your hormones need some TLC. If you live a fast-paced lifestyle, your quality of sleep is lacking and you tend to fuel up on energy dense foods filled with refined sugar to get you through the day, you are setting your adrenals - the master hormone glands up for fatigue and exhaustion. Prolonged feelings of stress and anxiety results in an increased production of cortisol (the stress hormone) and if we don’t harmonise our hormone levels it can make it frustratingly hard to shift abdominal fat, and let’s not forget the intense cravings for delicious comfort foods which ensue. Unfair, righ? I hear you! Avoid the perils of stress associated dieting by always eating an abundance of wholefoods.
- You tell yourself you’re comfortably okay
But are you really? Deep down you know there are things that you’d like to change. Don’t get comfortable and simply give up too easily. We are all too good at safeguarding ourselves by saying we are ‘fine’ or we are meant to be ‘overweight’, or you’re okay with not having a higher income to relieve financial stress. It’s like you’ve given up in that certain area of your life. I’m going to be straight with you, your past attempts at dieting aren’t working because your mindset is holding you back from attaining and sustaining your results. I find clients are often scared of getting uncomfortable. It’s this fear associated with getting uncomfortable that makes or breaks getting to your goals. Let me tell you, getting uncomfortable means you’re challenging yourself and putting your thoughts into action. What once was hard, only gets easier - remember that.
DO THE CHEMISTRY! All day long we have ideas that can change our lives, but what do we do with them? Nothing. I’m going to let you in on a little secret that will change your life… Activation energy. In chemistry, activation energy is the minimum amount of energy required to start a chemical reaction. Pay attention here! The initial energy needed is more than the energy required to sustain the reaction. Basically, it takes more effort to get started but once you’ve begun it’s easier to keep going. This very same concept applies to us, our intentions and our behaviours. Anything that changes up your routine requires an action to marry the thought, intention and behaviour together - therefore establishing new behaviours and routines. When it comes to behaviour, activation energy is the amount of energy it takes to start a new task. You can’t replace something with nothing you need to create new pathways and new habits by backing up your intentions with measurable action. Think about it, you plan to get up early and go to the gym in the morning before work. Your alarm goes off, it’s go-time but you sit in bed thinking I should really get up... but you come up with every plausible reason in the book as to why you can’t. You are failing to light the chemical spark that’s needed.
Now here’s the kicker, the 10 second rule is what will launch you into better routines that actually stick. You only have about 10 seconds before your mind begins to wander and trigger excuses. As soon as that alarm goes off, before you have time to think, just get out of bed and stand up. The more often you pair your intentions with behavioural action, the less activation energy is needed each time as your brain develops new pathways. NOW LIGHT THE FUSE! Your environment is your fuse! So set out your gym clothes the night before, prep your foods, buy yourself those new workout clothes or invest in a gym membership. These environmental catalysts will lower activation energy, meaning less effort is required to get you up and at the gym.
And remember, practice is essential. If you keep telling yourself you’re content with how you are or the things around, but deep down you know you aren’t, no change will occur.
Brain cells that fire together, wire together. If you want your behaviour to stick you need to consistently pair your thoughts with action within a short amount of time.
If you get these key things under control there is absolutely nothing stopping you achieving your weight loss goals - now go get it and get ready to see results!